Heroes offers comic fans a homebase

by Bradley Hartsell

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Randy Fike rings up a customer. Heroes started primarily as a sports card shop before interest in collecting baseball and football cards plummeted.

The origins of our summer Hollywood blockbusters reside in stacks at places like Heroes.

For more than 20 years, Heroes (formerly Newnan Sports Cards) has stood as Newnan's hub for comics, game cards and memorabilia.

Heroes started primarily as a sports card shop before interest in collecting baseball and football cards plummeted. Trading card games (Pokemon, Magic and Yu-Gu-Oh, for example) began to rise in the '90s, and those games began usurping sports card collecting. Heroes felt the cultural change and made the switch to games and comics exclusively, officially changing its name in 2008.

Tim Roberts, store manager, has been around since the beginning and saw the transition firsthand.

'The stuff we use sports cards for, stats and information, can all be accessed on your phone now,' Roberts says. 'The card games, [people] play and do something with them, and comic books have the movies now.'

'Yeah, the movies were a big help for comics,' owner Randy Fike adds.

When Hollywood cracked the formula to raking in hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office by riding the likes of Batman, Spider-Man and Iron Man, not to mention television adaptations like AMC's megahit 'The Walking Dead,' interest in comics returned in a big way.

Though the phenomenon is seen worldwide on the silver screen, the trickle-down effects are bringing life back to local comic scenes, just like the one in Newnan, which is located on Bullsboro Drive near Big Lots.

Fike took over Heroes two months ago. Fike already owned a similar store in Douglasville and saw Heroes as a natural step for him and the venerable store. It didn't hurt that he could work with a long-time friend in Roberts.

Roberts, tall and gregarious, looks hemmed in sitting behind the counter and identifies himself as a 'sports card guy.' Fike is friendly and has been a dedicated comic collector since eighth grade, but he's also conscious of his role as a serious businessman. When he says Heroes just had its best two months in store history, coinciding with his taking over, it doesn't sound like chest-puffing.

Most striking about the culture of Heroes is just how communal it all feels. Fike and Roberts rag on each other, Fike teasing Roberts for being so far behind on HBO's 'Game of Thrones,' while Roberts pokes at Fike for being the hotshot new owner. Heroes regular customers browse and talk comics with the two workers; when Fike is asked what the hottest comics are right now, he defers to a regular, Coker, who was shuffling through Wednesday's fresh new stacks, offering his take on a few of his favorites, like DC's 'Trinity War.'

Fike and Roberts play well off one another, but for their agreeable differences, it's clear they both know comics. They detail, along with Coker, the cultural ebb and flow of comic books, the finer points of comic book making today (more computer animation but still mostly the same as always) and the storyline arcs of recent Spider-Man and Batman issues.

Heroes also cultivates its close-knit culture by hosting weekend card tournaments. Fike says on a given weekend, 100 people will turn out to compete in Magic, Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh tournaments.

The revival of comics and the omnipresence of Magic, the most popular game, and Pokemon, a staple of '90s childhood, is making Heroes glow with the warm interpersonal connections that seems starved in the impersonal digital age.

So the next time an Avenger blasts into theaters, just remember where the lifeblood resides.

Right on the shelf in places like Heroes.



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